Characters: Alex, Hank, Sean (slight Alex/Hank)
Warnings: Allusions to emotional child abuse
Disclaimer: Not mine, as nice as it would be
Prompt: For this prompt: "In comic!verse, Alex’s adoptive family when he was separated from Scott in the foster care system had a son that died named Todd, and they were constantly forcing Alex into that role by calling him Todd and trying to make him act like Todd. [...] I want a fic focusing on that where Alex just has a total breakdown from the trauma in his life and then epic amounts of h/c."
Summary: Alex has a breakdown. Sean and Hank have no idea what to do about it.
Hank tapped lightly on the car window, while Sean stepped from foot to foot nervously behind him.
"Alex? Are you okay?" Hank asked cautiously.
Alex's hands were tight on the steering wheel, knuckles white under the strain. He stared directly ahead, showing no signs of recognition.
"See? It's like I said." Sean piped up, "It's like he's off in his own little world."
Hank pressed his lips into a thin line, tipping his head to one side.
"Something must have happened while the two of you were out. A trigger of some kind. Did you see anyone while you were out? Did anyone speak to him, or come close to him, or try to touch him at all?"
Sean rolled his eyes. "Dude, it was a supermarket, there were loads of people. Or course some of them came close to us."
"But anyone unusual? Maybe someone he knew?"
"I already told you. I was reading some magazines, then Alex comes up, no groceries or anything, and says we have to go. So I follow, even though he's totally ignoring all my questions, and he gets in the car and drives us both here. Completely silent the whole time. I don't know what happened. No idea. All I can tell is that there's something seriously messed up going on."
"Wait," Hank interrupted, "you were reading magazines? Could something have happened while you weren't looking?"
Sean crossed his arms. "I didn't hear any screaming or gunshots or anything if that's what you're implying. But I wasn't watching him like a hawk the whole time, I didn't know that was my job!"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to imply anything, I just... People don't normally just fall catatonic for no reason..." Hank sighed, and tapped on the glass again. "Alex, you're home now. It's time to get out of the car."
Alex remained quite still. Sean leaned on the car's bonnet.
"I could shatter the glass in the window for you, then you could unlock the door and pull him out?"
Hank gave Sean a bemused look. "Or you could just go round to the passenger side again and unlock the door that way."
Sean shrugged. "Yeah, that would work too. Just a second."
Even having Sean reach across Alex's chest to unlock the car door didn't seem to provoke a response. As Sean released Alex's seat belt, Hank opened the door and crouched down to Alex's level, gently resting a hand on the boy's tense upper arm.
"Alex, can you hear me?"
"I'm not him."Alex said, almost too soft to hear. Hank froze in place, his hand momentarily gripping Alex's bicep just a little too tightly.
"Not who?" Hank asked carefully, but Alex seemed to have spoken his piece. After a few moments, Hank resumed his soothing motions.
"Maybe he's possessed?" Sean suggested. Hank looked thoughtful.
"It's true that Charles is sometimes able to take over other people's minds. He could make them think or do things they wouldn't normally do..."
"So we should take him to see Charles then? Then he can take a look inside Alex's head and tell us what's gone wrong. Problem solved."
"Except that I can't be seen in public, and you're not old enough to drive." Hank pointed out. Sean huffed in frustration. It was true, of course. With Erik and Raven gone and Charles hospitalized for the indefinite future, Alex was the only one still in the house who could safely drive outside the grounds. The two boys lapsed once more into a concerned silence.
"I'm not Todd." Alex said, cutting the quiet as though with a knife.
Hank smiled cautiously, mindful not to bare his teeth in the process. "Well... That's okay. That's good. You're Alex, not Todd. Right?"
"I'm not Todd." Alex reiterated.
"I'm not Todd either," offered Sean. Then, in response to Hank's despairing look, he continued in a hurried whisper, "What? It's not like you were doing such a brilliant job at this yourself, you know!"
Hank moved his free paw to rest over Alex's smaller hands on the steering wheel, gently petting at the cold, stiff fingers. Alex's grip was tight, but Hank was strong enough to pry him away if the circumstances demanded it.
"It's okay Alex, we all know you're not Todd, and that's just fine. That's... Great, in fact, because this isn't Todd's home, this is your home. Alex's home. So why don't you come inside now and warm up, and then we'll see if we can't figure out what all the confusion is about?"
Alex turned his face down and to the side, eyes darting briefly up to Hank's face.
"Hank?" he asked, voice an urgent but confused whisper. Hank's eyes widened.
"That's right. Alex, do you know where you are?"
Alex yanked one hand out from under Hank's gentle touch, grasping at the short blonde strands of hair near his right ear and twisting viciously.
"I tried to explain to them, but they never really understood. Then I tried to be what they wanted him to be, but I could never get it quite right. I did everything I could, I swear, but I couldn't do it right. I could never be what they wanted me to be. Or what they wanted him to be." He looked blearily at Hank, and Hank noticed just how dilated Alex's pupils had become. "You understand, don't you, Hank?"
Hank pressed his lips together, glancing at Sean. Sean couldn't offer anything but a confused shrug. Hank turned back to Alex, who was looking increasingly distraught.
"I understand that something has upset you very badly," he began, wishing that he had Charles' gift instead of his own, "and that we both want to help, Sean and I. Will you come inside with us and let us help?"
Alex didn't respond though, once again drawing himself into his own private universe, still pulling at his hair and muttering inaudible syllables under his breath.
Hank leaned back on his heels.
"Sean, I'm going to take him up to his room. I'll need you to get the doors."
"Sure, no problem," replied the youngest of the boys. "But how are you going to... Oh, dude, that's awesome!"
Hank had leaned right into the car in front of Alex, and proceeded to scoop him up into a fireman's lift. Alex seemed more shocked than upset, letting go of his own hair to grab great handfuls of Hank's blue fur instead.
"Door?" Hank prompted, and Sean dashed over to open it.
They had barely made it out of the garage when Alex started to struggle. There were no real words to his objection, just formless, dissatisfied sounds coupled with ineffective attempts to kick his way free. Hank simply tightened his grip and walked a little faster, while trying to come up with something soothing to say.
"It's okay, Alex, you're safe. We're not going to hurt you, we're just trying to take you some place safe. Please stop hitting me Alex, I'm on your side..."
"I really don't think that's working," Sean offered as they reached the top of the stairs and he jogged ahead to open Alex's bedroom door. Hank chose not to comment.
Alex calmed somewhat when he was deposited on the bed, drawing his knees up to his chest and resting his chin on top. He looked at Hank and Sean, but seemed to stare through them.
"I'll get some extra blankets," volunteered Sean, and he disappeared.
Hank carefully set himself down next to Alex.
"Hey." He said.
"I'm sorry I couldn't be what you wanted me to be." Alex replied, the whispered non-sequiteur both confusing and concerning Hank.
"Why do you think you're not what we want you to be?" He asked.
"I just thought... I'll try harder, I swear, please don't..."
Sean chose that moment to return with a pile of blankets, which he and Hank then arranged into a warm, slightly scratchy nest around Alex.
The sudden weight of the blankets seemed to set something off in Alex. He started shivering, and his teeth started to chatter, and he started to rock backwards and forwards very slightly. Sean looked to Hank with wide eyes.
"He's not getting better. Shouldn't he be getting better by now? What do we do now, Hank?"
"Hank?" he asked, head twitching upwards to look at the beast. He still looked confused, but the distance which had clouded his eyes a few minutes ago had cleared. "This isn't Todd's room..."
"Dude, we've never even heard of Todd, why would he have a room here?" Sean answered, relief at Alex's changed manner evident. Hank overlooked his enthusiasm, preferring to reserve judgement.
"Alex, do you know where you are now?" He prompted carefully, sitting very still so as to avoid accidentally startling Alex.
Alex nodded slowly.
"This is my room. In Charles' mansion." He spoke the words as a statement, but his expression made it seem more like a question. Hank nodded in confirmation.
"That's right. Do you remember how you got here?"
Alex considered this for several seconds, then tentatively shook his head. This worried Hank a little, but he pushed on regardless.
"What is the last thing you do remember?"
"We were going to get some stuff from the shops," Alex spoke softly, looking to Sean for confirmation. Sean supplied it by way of an enthusiastic nod. "Then we got there... I was going to stock up on tins and stuff, since they keep, and... Oh."
Alex stopped speaking, and his gaze once again dropped away from his friends. He pulled his knees a little closer in, causing the nest of blankets to shift around him. Hank reached out to his shoulder, determined to keep Alex in the present any way that he could. Alex turned his head to look at the interloping paw.
"I'm sorry," he murmured, and for a brief moment it seemed that Alex had slipped away from them again, but then he continued. "I don't think I'm quite ready to talk about this yet. I'm..."
Alex looked up at Sean, then let his eyes drift across to Hank.
"I'm really tired. Would be okay if I just rested for a little while?"
Hank considered Alex's request for a moment. Having no evidence to indicate that it would do any further damage, it was probably as good a plan as any. Yet, the scientist in him pushed for more information, an explanation, something. Sean was clearly thinking the same way.
"Shouldn't we find out what happened first? You know, in case it happens again?" Sean asked, looking first at Hank, then looking meaningfully at Alex before settling back on Hank.
Alex's expression was bordering on plaintive as he gazed at the two of them. Hank took a deep breath, his own curiosity warring with the obvious look of distress.
"I think that would be fine... But maybe one of us should stay in here with you while you sleep? You know, just in case?"
Apparently relieved that he wasn't going to be forced into an explanation just yet, Alex agreed to the conditions almost immediately, even going so far as to shuffle across on the bed a little way to make more space for his supervisor.
"Okay, if you're sure." Sean shrugged. "Did you want me to..." He started to gesture at the bed, but paused as he looked between Hank and Alex. "Never mind. I'm going to go down to the kitchen. If you need me for anything, just holler."
Hank waited until Sean had once again left the room before returning his attention to Alex, who was still sitting bundled up on top of the bed.
"Do you need a hand with that?" He asked, gesturing at the blankets. A few seconds later Alex had wriggled out by himself, providing Hank with his answer. Alex slipped under the bed covers and curled into an almost fetal position.
Hank settled down on top of the bedclothes ready to wait out the next few hours, adjusting his position so that Alex had plenty of room. The bed was a double, but his larger form inevitably took up more than his fair share.
He needn't have bothered. Barely a second after he had settled, he found Alex shuffling in closer, pressing lightly against Hank's side.
"I know you want me to tell you what happened." Alex whispered, so quiet that Hank wasn't even certain he had really heard it.
"Only if you're ready to tell me." Hank replied, hoping desperately that it was the right answer. He once again envied Charles' ability to always know the right things to say.
"I'm not ready. Is that alright?"
"Of course. You can tell me tomorrow, when you're feeling..." Hank almost said "more like yourself", but that was a little too literal under the circumstances, so instead he settled for "better rested."
For a moment, Hank thought that Alex was finished, then the small voice returned.
"What if I'm still not ready tomorrow?" Alex asked, and this time he looked up at Hank's face in a way that made Hank wonder what hidden layers of meaning he was missing in this conversation.
"Then we wait until the next day. Or until whenever you feel like are ready. We just want you to be okay. Okay?"
Alex replied by pressing further into Hank's side, speaking with a small, relieved smile.